Mystery Bird: Hoatzin, Opisthocomus hoazin

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[Mystery bird] Hoatzin, Opisthocomus hoazin, photographed in South America [I will identify this bird for you tomorrow]
Image: Indonesian Parrot Project [larger view].

Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.

Rick Wright, Managing Director of WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide, writes:
Are these real birds? As anyone who has enjoyed a slow cruise along a South American river will attest, they are real — so real that they have been made the national bird of Guyana.
The mangrove thicket habitat is a good first clue, but we hardly need such subtle hints to identify these Hoatzins. The turkey-like tails, deep reddish wings, blond breasts and necks, blue faces, crazy crests, and altogether prehistoric appearance are utterly distinctive; in life, their noisy thrashing about is just as characteristic.
Hoatzins are famous for many reasons, but they are known principally, perhaps, for their vegetarian habits: they subsist almost entirely on leaves, which they digest in a series of “stomachs” like a mammalian ruminant. I’ve never been close enough to confirm it, but I’m told that areas frequented by Hoatzins can be identified with the olfactory faculty even before these great floppy creatures are seen.
Review all mystery birds to date.


About GrrlScientist

grrlscientist is the pseudonym of an evolutionary biologist and ornithologist who writes about evolution, ethology, and ecology, especially in birds. After earning a degree in microbiology (thesis focus: virology) and working at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, she earned her PhD in zoology from the University of Washington in Seattle, where she studied the molecular correlates of testosterone and behaviour in white-crowned sparrows. She then worked a Chapman Postdoctoral Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where she studied the speciation and distribution of lories and other parrots throughout the South Pacific Islands. A discarded scientist, she returned to her roots: writing. Formerly hosted by The Guardian (UK), she now writes about science for Forbes and for the non-profit think tank, the Evolution Institute and she writes podcasts for BirdNote Radio. An avid lifelong birder and aviculturist, she lives with a flock of songbirds and parrots somewhere in Germany.
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0 Responses to Mystery Bird: Hoatzin, Opisthocomus hoazin

  1. Scott Lewis says:


  2. John Walters says:

    Elementary! My dear Hoatzin!

  3. says:

    Absolutely Hoatzin. Was watching these in the Ecuadorian jungle only a year ago!

  4. Hai~Ren says:

    Ooh, hoatzins!
    Since you asked for field marks, I’ll point out the unfeathered blue face and the spiky crest. The white streaks on the neck are also another characteristic feature.
    At least I can’t smell them; I hear that hoatzins stink.

  5. Selasphorus says:

    Hoatzin. 🙂
    The bare blue faces are the fieldmark for me, but really, they’re distinctive birds. 🙂

  6. wrpd says: